Next-generation COVID-19 vaccines are critical due to the ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 virus and rapid waning duration of the neutralizing antibody response against current vaccines. The mRNA vaccines mRNA-1273 and BNT162b2 were developed using linear transcripts encoding the prefusion-stabilized trimers (S-2P) of the wildtype spike, which have shown a reduced neutralizing activity against the variants of concern B.1.617.2 and B.1.1.529. Recently, a new version of spike trimer, termed VFLIP (five (V) prolines, Flexibly-Linked, Inter-Protomer disulfide) was developed. Based on the original amino acid sequence of the wildtype spike, VFLIP was genetically engineered by using five proline substitutions, a flexible cleavage site amino acid linker, and an interprotomer disulfide bond. It has been suggested to possess native-like glycosylation, and greater pre-fusion trimeric stability as opposed to S-2P. Here, we report that the spike protein VFLIP-X, containing six rationally substituted amino acids to reflect emerging variants (K417N, L452R, T478K, E484K, N501Y and D614G), offers a promising candidate for a next-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Mice immunized by a circular mRNA (circRNA) vaccine prototype producing VFLIP-X had detectable neutralizing antibody titers for up to 7 weeks post-boost against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) and variants of interest (VOIs). In addition, a balance in TH1 and TH2 responses was achieved by immunization with VFLIP-X. Our results indicate that the VFLIP-X delivered by circRNA induces humoral and cellular immune responses, as well as broad neutralizing activity against SARSCoV-2 variants.
Seephetdee C, Bhukhai K, Buasri N, Leelukkanaveera P, Lerdwattanasombat P, Manopwisedjaroen S, Phueakphud N, Kuhaudomlarp S, Olmedillas E, Saphire EO, Thitithanyanont A, Hongeng S, Wongtrakoongate P. A circular mRNA vaccine prototype producing VFLIP-X spike confers a broad neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 variants by mouse sera. Antiviral Res. 2022 Jun 27;204:105370.
|Assoc. Prof. Patompon Wongtrakoongate